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Architectural styles unique to Toronto

freshcutgrass

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Nicely put re " Toronto's gentle urbanism ". Supertalls, and such, be damned, - just ain't TO's style. We had our fling, and " embarrasment by that kind of clarity with ", the CN Tower and Skydome aka Rogers Centre. Toronto may not have the exclamation marks, but the text is there if you take the time to read it.

Yea....it's not like we don't do it (CN Tower, Eaton Centre, Skydome, etc)...and some of the concepts dreamt up but not built (Unbuilt Toronto) point out that there is not a shortage of dialogue regarding "grand gestures".

But it's the "gentle urbanism" that has paid off for Toronto in the long run, and will continue to reap the benefits from.

Toronto has tempered Big Business development with Crombie-era style city-building, and we are better off for it. Projects like Sherbourne Lanes, St. lawrence, Beverley Place are as much our style as high density nodal development outside of downtown.

Take away many other cities grand gestures and what do you have? Take away Toronto's and we still have a very liveable city.
 

howl

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To return to the Ontario Cottage style for a moment I recall being told many years ago that the reason they were designed that way, and why they are unique to Ontario, was because at one time property taxes in Ontario were calculated based on the number of storeys your house was. The number of storeys was determined by how many rows of windows faced the road, not including dormers. Thus you will find many 19th century homes in rural Ontario that appear to be one storey from the road, but are actually two storeys or more at the back. They often have very high roof lines at the front.

Example: http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ll...-3yZ8I6GfbI2RpdQrzfN9w&cbp=12,326.65,,0,-0.05
 

Tewder

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I agree that Chicago and New York are extremes within the North American context but I'm not sure we need to pigeonhole ourselves quite yet. Our history as an 'important' urban centre is fairly short so far, comparatively speaking, and some of the labels that we look to for better self-awareness such as 'messy urbanism' and 'gentle urbanism' are problematic when it comes to Toronto in that it is still too unclear just which ideas are long term and transcendent vs which ones are part of an evolution. In other words, when you consider the most important growth spurt in Toronto's history thus far, which is to say that of the post-war years, you could hardly consider it to be 'gentle': This was the generation that built the world's largest free-standing structure, a subway system, NPS and the Eaton Centre, literally transforming itself from a sleepy Victorian backwater to a modern multicultural metropolis. Nothing gentle in this at all! We may be frustrated with our direction over the past twenty years but this inertia is not self-defining, and although we may not always choose the 'big bang' gestures of post-war Toronto we have to leave room for the possibility that future generations might...
 

northto

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Nothing gentle in this at all! We may be frustrated with our direction over the past twenty years but this inertia is not self-defining, and although we may not always choose the 'big bang' gestures of post-war Toronto we have to leave room for the possibility that future generations might...

Indeed, Tewder. It would seem that the ebb and flow of change - including periods of seeming inertia - are part of transformation. Rarely is nothing going on.
 

freshcutgrass

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Our history as an 'important' urban centre is fairly short so far, comparatively speaking, and some of the labels that we look to for better self-awareness such as 'messy urbanism' and 'gentle urbanism' are problematic when it comes to Toronto in that it is still too unclear just which ideas are long term and transcendent vs which ones are part of an evolution.

I think the perception has changed, as Toronto seems to be following trends, as opposed to setting them back in the day when we were seen as "the city that works". I don't think we are really doing much different, but it seems it's everybody else that is, which redefines the perception of Toronto. When the urban renewal trend hit a lot of cities in the last 20 years, Toronto is seen as a bit of an also-ran. But it's when these cities start hitting the skids again is when Toronto seems to be perceived as a bit more urban savvy.

Toronto weathers storms well. Emulating Chicago was never a popular idea 30 years ago....and will probably not be 30 years from now. Why we covet other cities baubles as a testament to urban success is a bad trend, and I hope not one we stay obsessed with. The answer does not lay in giant ferris wheels or shiny expensive art in our parks that everybody else seems to focus on. We can indulge or not indulge, but either way, our overall success will never hinge on them. But at the moment, we act like it is all that matters.
 

adma

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Yea....it's not like we don't do it (CN Tower, Eaton Centre, Skydome, etc)...and some of the concepts dreamt up but not built (Unbuilt Toronto) point out that there is not a shortage of dialogue regarding "grand gestures".

But it's the "gentle urbanism" that has paid off for Toronto in the long run, and will continue to reap the benefits from.

Toronto has tempered Big Business development with Crombie-era style city-building, and we are better off for it. Projects like Sherbourne Lanes, St. lawrence, Beverley Place are as much our style as high density nodal development outside of downtown.

Take away many other cities grand gestures and what do you have? Take away Toronto's and we still have a very liveable city.

Though to counterbalance the Crombie picture, it isn't *entirely* true to declare supertalls to be "not our style"--after all, among the most characteristic Toronto building archetypes are the high-rise "Commie Block" apartment clusters that define the suburbs almost as much as the core. (Y'know, the study objects/targets of the Mayor's Tower Renewal program.) And their example probably went a long way to "validating" affairs like Cityplace...
 

freshcutgrass

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Though to counterbalance the Crombie picture, it isn't *entirely* true to declare supertalls to be "not our style"--after all, among the most characteristic Toronto building archetypes are the high-rise "Commie Block" apartment clusters that define the suburbs almost as much as the core.

I don't see the connection between "supertalls" and the rectilinear apartment blocks known as "commie blocks".

Every city was doing the commie block, and to be honest, Toronto weathered that storm quite a bit better than American and European cities. I'd say comparatively speaking, we came out smelling like a rose on that one, without even mentioning Tower Renewal programs (which is a great idea and forward thinking, but Toronto being what it is these days, likely to remain only an idea).

There's no point in joining in the "supertall" game if you can't really compete. There's no competing with the Far East and the Middle East. Our industry is far too practical. And it's probably a good thing. Toronto's building boom is bound to net us out a "supertall" eventually, but 1500-2000 foot tall buildings are never going to be sprouting up all over Toronto as they do in other parts of the world.
 

old boy

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Supertalls around the world are interesting engineering feats, but in some respects come off as bizarre, almost cartoonish. Toronto has it's growing stack of highrises that may be modest in terms of what's sprouting elsewhere, but the scale is right for this place. Not that long ago when you viewed the Toronto core , you saw only the bank buildings sticking out, and then the big drop off. Toronto has been lucky to escape the supertall mania for any number of reasons, but mainly because of economics. And, as freshcutgrass says there may be a little of the " urban savvy " stuff as well.
 

adma

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Every city was doing the commie block, and to be honest, Toronto weathered that storm quite a bit better than American and European cities. I'd say comparatively speaking, we came out smelling like a rose on that one, without even mentioning Tower Renewal programs (which is a great idea and forward thinking, but Toronto being what it is these days, likely to remain only an idea).

But within a CanUSA context, Toronto's fairly unique in how the commie-block clusters aren't concentrated within the core, but spread throughout the city and into the 'burbs--it's in *that* aspect that it became a local archetype: not just the commie block, but the *suburban* commie block.

And with that in mind: if the GTA's ever in the mood for supertalls, it might as well be in the suburbs: not Cityplace, but Mississauga City Centre...
 

freshcutgrass

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But within a CanUSA context, Toronto's fairly unique in how the commie-block clusters aren't concentrated within the core, but spread throughout the city and into the 'burbs--it's in *that* aspect that it became a local archetype: not just the commie block, but the *suburban* commie block.

Yea...that's true. But I think that has more to do with high density nodal development / TOD (which Toronto is/was a leader in), rather than whatever building style just happened to be in vogue at the time.


And with that in mind: if the GTA's ever in the mood for supertalls, it might as well be in the suburbs: not Cityplace, but Mississauga City Centre...

There's a good chance you will be right. But I find that in most of those places that are engaging in this supernal business, there seems to be a very myopic view going on. They think distracting people's attention away from more serious urban planning is a solution. I think in some cases, like Tokyo, supertall designs may actually offer a solution to urban problems. But places like Dubai prove that many people actually are deluded enough to think that these buildings can make up for every mistake in the book. And their delusions are often validated. If it weren't for the inevitable financial failure of the whims of a megalomaniacal absolute monarch, I fear this would have more influence in the rest of the world.

So yea....I can see this happening in Mississauga.

I tend to see places like this as cautionary tales, rather than something to emulate.
 
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adma

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There's a good chance you will be right. But I find that in most of those places that are engaging in this supernal business, there seems to be a very myopic view going on. They think distracting people's attention away from more serious urban planning is a solution. I think in some cases, like Tokyo, supertall designs may actually offer a solution to urban problems. But places like Dubai prove that many people actually are deluded enough to think that these buildings can make up for every mistake in the book. And their delusions are often validated. If it weren't for the inevitable financial failure of the whims of a megalomaniacal absolute monarch, I fear this would have more influence in the rest of the world.

So yea....I can see this happening in Mississauga.

I tend to see places like this as cautionary tales, rather than something to emulate.

With this in mind, I find it noteworthy that with few exceptions (say, Post Oak in Houston), North American "edge cities" have *not* been marked by significant incipient-supertall high-rise construction--perhaps a bit because such construction was too redolent of "dense urban cores" such edge cities were conceived as an escape from, and perhaps a bit because their genesis predated Asia's mania for supertalls. (And by the time the Asian influence could wash over on these shores, the US went too Dubyah-era insular to much know or care.)
 

freshcutgrass

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With this in mind, I find it noteworthy that with few exceptions (say, Post Oak in Houston), North American "edge cities" have *not* been marked by significant incipient-supertall high-rise construction--perhaps a bit because such construction was too redolent of "dense urban cores" such edge cities were conceived as an escape from, and perhaps a bit because their genesis predated Asia's mania for supertalls. (And by the time the Asian influence could wash over on these shores, the US went too Dubyah-era insular to much know or care.)

Toronto was mostly unique in that it started this idea a long time ago, and it was successful for the most part all along. It's easy to just keep doing what you are used to doing...especially when it works. And one main reason Toronto was unique in this, is because of another unique situation Toronto was in....our interesting experiment with two-tiered municipal government back in the 50's (very good timing). This is what prompted our "pseudo-cities (boroughs) to create their own little "downtowns". Plus Toronto wasn't experiencing the urban decay every other major city in NA was experiencing.

Meanwhile, most suburban areas of American cities are made up of large swaths of unincorporated areas, which means unhindered sprawl. Houston may be the slight exception because of the huge area of its city proper. Plus their lack of zoning bylaws.

North America didn't do the "Dubai" thing, because it doesn't have any "shake-n-bake" cities. Except for perhaps Vegas, which is where you might expect to see this happen. But I don't think it has the momentum for that. In the 90's, the resurgence of "downtown" hit American cities, which is why no focus on densifying the burbs took place.
 

Memph

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The first style of house, at least, is common in Philadelphia.
Where in Philadelphia? I couldn't find any. It seems like Americans call similar houses "foursquares", but those seem to be detached, not semi-detached, and they usually have more uniform windows (and no bay windows).
One style of house I see as unique is the "York Township" 1 1/2 story hip gable house, built in the 1920s and 1930s, sort of a precursor to the widely-distributed CMHC 1 1/2 story "Monopoly" house.

http://maps.google.com/?ll=43.68376...n4rsVHofKxCl9PrGJnK60A&cbp=12,343.88,,1,-3.05
I think I remember seeing hip gable houses similar to that one in American cities, next time I see them I'll take note and see how they compare.
 
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Memph

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This variation might be vernacular, but it's an adaptation of the Second Empire style for modest housing of the time. Unlike Bay and Gables, there aren't enough of these houses to forge a unique style.
These little second empire rowhouses aren't that uncommon actually, although the brick is often painted over, which might make those less noticeable. I actually found some in Markham that look very similar. These rowhomes in Trinity Bellwoods would be an example of these Second Empire homes that were alterred a fair bit. 133,135 and 137 look like they might have been built the same way, but seem to have been modified beyond recognition.
These are somewhat strange, but they possibly represent a sort of transition between Victorian and Craftsman and Edwardian styles.
They are pretty common though. They might have look like these on Queen East originally.

These look like Craftsman houses, common in North America in the early 20th century. Many in Toronto are bland, though it might be because of renovations over the decades. Bloor West Village has some beautifully restored examples, for instance on Kennedy Avenue just north of Runnymede Station.
Looks like you're right, there are similar homes in other American cities, although they all seem to be detached (not semis). Do you think the Toronto ones might have originally been detached too, or did Toronto always have more semi-detached homes than American cities?

Anyways, there is one style of housing that is extremely common in Toronto and I've yet to see in other regions, which are homes like these semis in the Jane-Finch area. They seem to have been built all over the suburbs in the 60s, especially in the North-East 416 suburbs, but also in parts of Scarborough, Western North York, Mississauga and Brampton. They were built in a very specific way, with two single-car garages adjacent to each other. The driveway is a bit wider (on each side) than the two single car garages. Much of the building is inset, with the inset being the width of the driveway and including the garages, two balconies above them and usually a door on either side of the garage. There would usually be a wall partitioning the inset, and a large window onto the balconies above each garage, with a door to access the balcony on either side. The main entrance to the house would be raised usually halfway between the garage level and balcony, on either side of the house and be the only part of the house that's not inset. The rear of the house is sometimes raised so that it is two floors high facing the back yard. The semi-detached homes sometimes have their own hip roof, sometimes a shared hip roof.

I haven't seen any homes like these in American cities.
 

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